'That's how we help each other': Community savings groups, economic empowerment and HIV risk among female sex workers in Iringa, Tanzania.
ABSTRACT: Female sex workers (FSW) are a socially and economically marginalized population heavily affected by HIV. Community empowerment approaches focus on FSW taking collective action to address structural barriers to their health and have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing HIV risk. This study examines the potential for community savings groups (locally called michezo) among FSW in Iringa, Tanzania to reduce HIV risk and promote economic and community empowerment. We conducted 27 in-depth interviews (IDIs) with 15 FSW over time and 4 focus group discussions (FGDs) with 35 FSW participating in michezo, and 10 key informant interviews (KIIs) with group collectors. Content analysis was used to identify salient themes around participants' sex work and financial realities; the role of savings groups in their lives and work; and experiences with social cohesion associated with group participation. Michezo were described as providing a safety net for times of financial need, allowing FSW to create greater financial security for themselves and their families. Participation in the groups was also reported to facilitate both individual agency, resulting in members' ability to negotiate condom use and be selective about clients, and a sense of collective identity and solidarity. Participants described group challenges including high mobility and low income of FSW making it difficult for women to fulfill their financial obligations to the group. As a result, participants reported preferences for joining michezo whose members were perceived as more stable (e.g. older, married, from more established venues). Group collectors and members were eager to have michezo formally registered and become recognized by the broader community. Findings indicate that savings groups promote individual agency to reduce sexual risk behaviors and foster community empowerment among FSW. The groups hold potential as an empowerment strategy to enable sex workers to address structural sources of HIV vulnerability and help them achieve socioeconomic inclusion.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Most HIV prevention for female sex workers (FSWs) focuses on individual behaviour change involving peer educators, condom promotion and the provision of sexual health services. However, there is a growing recognition of the need to address broader societal, contextual and structural factors contributing to FSW risk behaviour. We assess the cost-effectiveness of adding community mobilisation (CM) and empowerment interventions (eg. community mobilisation, community involvement in programme management and services, violence reduction, and addressing legal policies and police practices), to core HIV prevention services delivered as part of Avahan in two districts (Bellary and Belgaum) of Karnataka state, Southern India. METHODS:An ingredients approach was used to estimate economic costs in US$ 2011 from an HIV programme perspective of CM and empowerment interventions over a seven year period (2004-2011). Incremental impact, in terms of HIV infections averted, was estimated using a two-stage process. An 'exposure analysis' explored whether exposure to CM was associated with FSW's empowerment, risk behaviours and HIV/STI prevalence. Pathway analyses were then used to estimate the extent to which behaviour change may be attributable to CM and to inform a dynamic HIV transmission model. FINDINGS:The incremental costs of CM and empowerment were US$ 307,711 in Belgaum and US$ 592,903 in Bellary over seven years (2004-2011). Over a 7-year period (2004-2011) the mean (standard deviation, sd.) number of HIV infections averted through CM and empowerment is estimated to be 1257 (308) in Belgaum and 2775 (1260) in Bellary. This translates in a mean (sd.) incremental cost per disability adjusted life year (DALY) averted of US$ 14.12 (3.68) in Belgaum and US$ 13.48 (6.80) for Bellary--well below the World Health Organisation recommended willingness to pay threshold for India. When savings from ART are taken into account, investments in CM and empowerment are cost saving. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings suggest that CM and empowerment is, at worst, highly cost-effective and, at best, a cost-saving investment from an HIV programme perspective. CM and empowerment interventions should therefore be considered as core components of HIV prevention programmes for FSWs.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To determine the impact of a community empowerment model of combination HIV prevention (Project Shikamana) among female sex workers (FSW) in Iringa, Tanzania. METHODS:We conducted a 2-community randomized trial. Intervention elements included the following: (1) Community-led drop-in center and mobilization activities; (2) venue-based peer education, condom distribution, and HIV testing; (3) peer service navigation; (4) provider sensitivity trainings; and (5) SMS reminders. We used time-location sampling to enroll 496 FSW and conducted a survey and blood draws to screen for HIV and assess viral load at 0 and 18 months. We conducted an intent-to-treat analysis using logistic and Poisson regression and inverse probability weighting for primary outcomes. RESULTS:The analysis included 171 HIV-positive and 216 HIV-negative FSW who completed baseline and 18-month study visits. Participants in the intervention were significantly less likely to become infected with HIV at 18-month follow-up (RR 0.38; P = 0.047), with an HIV incidence of 5.0% in the intervention vs. 10.4% control. Decreases in inconsistent condom use over time were significantly greater in the intervention (72.0%-43.6%) vs. control (68.8%-54.0%; RR 0.81, P = 0.042). At follow-up, we observed significant differences in behavioral HIV care continuum outcomes, and positive, but nonsignificant, increases in viral suppression (40.0%-50.6%) in the intervention vs. control (35.9%-47.4%). There was a strong association of between higher intervention exposure and HIV outcomes including viral suppression. CONCLUSIONS:Project Shikamana is the first trial of community empowerment-based combination prevention among FSW in Africa to show a significant reduction in HIV incidence warranting its broader implementation and evaluation.
Project description:Women's empowerment is a process that includes increases in intrinsic agency (power within); instrumental agency (power to); and collective agency (power with). We used baseline data from two studies-Targeting and Realigning Agriculture for Improved Nutrition (TRAIN) in Bangladesh and Building Resilience in Burkina Faso (BRB)-to assess the measurement properties of survey questions operationalizing selected dimensions of intrinsic, instrumental, and collective agency in the project-level Women's Empowerment in Agricultural Index (pro-WEAI). We applied unidimensional item-response models to question (item) sets to assess their measurement properties, and when possible, their cross-context measurement equivalence-a requirement of measures designed for cross-group comparisons. For intrinsic agency in the right to bodily integrity, measured with five attitudinal questions about intimate partner violence (IPV) against women, model assumptions of unidimensionality and local independence were met. Four items showed good model fit and measurement equivalence across TRAIN and BRB. For item sets designed to capture autonomy in income, intrinsic agency in livelihoods activities, and instrumental agency in: livelihoods activities, the sale or use of outputs, the use of income, and borrowing from financial services, model assumptions were not met, model fit was poor, and items generally were weakly related to the latent (unobserved) agency construct. For intrinsic and instrumental agency in livelihoods activities and for instrumental agency in the sale or use of outputs and in the use of income, items sets had similar precision along the latent-agency continuum, suggesting that similar item sets could be dropped without a loss of precision. IRT models for collective agency were not estimable because of low reported presence and membership in community groups. This analysis demonstrates the use of IRT methods to assess the measurement properties of item sets in pro-WEAI, and empowerment scales generally. Findings suggest that a shorter version of pro-WEAI can be developed that will improve its measurement properties. We recommend revisions to the pro-WEAI questionnaire and call for new measures of women's collective agency.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Female sex workers (FSWs) experience high levels of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) morbidity, violence and discrimination. Successful SRH interventions for FSWs in India and elsewhere have long prioritised community mobilisation and structural interventions, yet little is known about similar approaches in African settings. We systematically reviewed community empowerment processes within FSW SRH projects in Africa, and assessed them using a framework developed by Ashodaya, an Indian sex worker organisation.<h4>Methods</h4>In November 2012 we searched Medline and Web of Science for studies of FSW health services in Africa, and consulted experts and websites of international organisations. Titles and abstracts were screened to identify studies describing relevant services, using a broad definition of empowerment. Data were extracted on service-delivery models and degree of FSW involvement, and analysed with reference to a four-stage framework developed by Ashodaya. This conceptualises community empowerment as progressing from (1) initial engagement with the sex worker community, to (2) community involvement in targeted activities, to (3) ownership, and finally, (4) sustainability of action beyond the community.<h4>Results</h4>Of 5413 articles screened, 129 were included, describing 42 projects. Targeted services in FSW 'hotspots' were generally isolated and limited in coverage and scope, mostly offering only free condoms and STI treatment. Many services were provided as part of research activities and offered via a clinic with associated community outreach. Empowerment processes were usually limited to peer-education (stage 2 of framework). Community mobilisation as an activity in its own right was rarely documented and while most projects successfully engaged communities, few progressed to involvement, community ownership or sustainability. Only a few interventions had evolved to facilitate collective action through formal democratic structures (stage 3). These reported improved sexual negotiating power and community solidarity, and positive behavioural and clinical outcomes. Sustainability of many projects was weakened by disunity within transient communities, variable commitment of programmers, low human resource capacity and general resource limitations.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Most FSW SRH projects in Africa implemented participatory processes consistent with only the earliest stages of community empowerment, although isolated projects demonstrate proof of concept for successful empowerment interventions in African settings.
Project description:Improving economic resources of impoverished youth may alter intentions to engage in sexual risk behaviors by motivating positive future planning to avoid HIV risk and by altering economic contexts contributing to HIV risk. Yet, few studies have examined the effect of economic-strengthening on economic and sexual behaviors of orphaned youth, despite high poverty and high HIV infection in this population. Hierarchal longitudinal regressions were used to examine the effect of a savings-led economic empowerment intervention, the Suubi-Maka Project, on changes in orphaned adolescents' cash savings and attitudes toward savings and HIV-preventive practices over time. We randomized 346 Ugandan adolescents, aged 10-17 years, to either the control group receiving usual orphan care plus mentoring (n?=?167) or the intervention group receiving usual orphan care plus mentoring, financial education, and matched savings accounts (n?=?179). Assessments were conducted at baseline, 12, and 24 months. Results indicated that intervention adolescents significantly increased their cash savings over time (b?=?$US12.32, ±1.12, p?<?.001) compared to adolescents in the control group. At 24 months post-baseline, 92% of intervention adolescents had accumulated savings compared to 43% in the control group (p?<?.001). The largest changes in savings goals were the proportion of intervention adolescents valuing saving for money to buy a home (?T1-T0?=?+14.9, p?<?.001), pursue vocational training (?T1-T0?=?+8.8, p?<?.01), and start a business (T1-T0?=?+6.7, p?<?.01). Intervention adolescents also had a significant relative increase over time in HIV-preventive attitudinal scores (b?=?+0.19, ±0.09, p?<?.05), most commonly toward perceived risk of HIV (95.8%, n?=?159), sexual abstinence or postponement (91.6%, n?=?152), and consistent condom use (93.4%, n?=?144). In addition, intervention adolescents had 2.017 significantly greater odds of a maximum HIV-prevention score (OR?=?2.017, 95%CI: 1.43-2.84). To minimize HIV risk throughout the adolescent and young adult periods, long-term strategies are needed to integrate youth economic development, including savings and income generation, with age-appropriate combination prevention interventions.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Asset-based economic empowerment interventions, which take an integrated approach to building human, social, and economic capital, have shown promise in their ability to reduce HIV risk for young people, including adolescent girls, in sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, community and family strengthening interventions have proven beneficial in addressing mental health and behavioral challenges of adolescents transitioning to adulthood. Yet, few programs aimed at addressing sexual risk have applied combination interventions to address economic stability and mental health within the traditional framework of health education and HIV counseling/testing. This paper describes a study protocol for a 5-year, NIMH-funded, cluster randomized-controlled trial to evaluate a combination intervention aimed at reducing HIV risk among adolescent girls in Uganda. The intervention, titled Suubi4Her, combines savings-led economic empowerment through youth development accounts (YDA) with an innovative family strengthening component delivered via Multiple Family Groups (MFG). METHODS:Suubi4Her will be evaluated via a three-arm cluster randomized-controlled trial design (YDA only, YDA?+?MFG, Usual Care) in 42 secondary schools in the Central region of Uganda, targeting a total of 1260 girls (ages 15-17 at enrollment). Assessments will occur at baseline, 12, 24, and 36 months. This study addresses two primary outcomes: 1) change in HIV risk behavior and 2) change in mental health functioning. Secondary exploratory outcomes include HIV and STI incidence, pregnancy, educational attainment, financial savings behavior, gender attitudes, and self-esteem. For potential scale-up, cost effectiveness analysis will be employed to compare the relative costs and outcomes associated with each study arm. CONCLUSIONS:Suubi4Her will be one of the first prospective studies to examine the impact and cost of a combination intervention integrating economic and social components to reduce known HIV risk factors and improve mental health functioning among adolescent girls, while concurrently exploring mental health as a mediator in HIV risk reduction. The findings will illuminate the pathways that connect economic needs, mental health, family support, and HIV risk. If successful, the results will promote holistic HIV prevention strategies to reduce risk among adolescent girls in Uganda and potentially the broader sub-Saharan Africa region. TRIAL REGISTRATION:Clinical Trials NCT03307226 (Registered: 10/11/17).
Project description:BACKGROUND:Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS, with Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda accounting for 48% of new infections. A systematic review of the HIV burden among women engaged in sex work (WESW) in 50 low- and middle-income countries found that they had increased odds of HIV infection relative to the general female population. Social structural factors, such as the sex work environment, violence, stigma, cultural issues, and criminalization of sex work are critical in shaping sexually transmitted infection (STI)/HIV risks among WESW and their clients in Uganda. Poverty is the most commonly cited reason for involvement in sex work in SSA. Against this backdrop, this study protocol describes a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that tests the impact of adding economic empowerment to traditional HIV risk reduction (HIVRR) to reduce new incidence of STIs and HIV among WESW in Rakai and the greater Masaka regions in Uganda. METHODS:This three-arm RCT will evaluate the efficacy of adding savings, financial literacy and vocational training/mentorship to traditional HIVRR on reducing new incidence of STI infections among 990 WESW across 33 hotspots. The three arms (n?=?330 each) are: 1) Control group: only HIVRR versus 2) Treatment group 1: HIVRR plus Savings plus Financial Literacy (HIVRR + S?+?FL); and 3) Treatment group 2: HIVRR plus S plus FL plus Vocational Skills Training and Mentorship (V) (HIVRR + S?+?FL?+?V). Data will be collected at baseline (pre-test), 6, 12, 18 and 24-months post-intervention initiation. This study will use an embedded experimental mixed methods design where qualitative data will be collected post-intervention across all conditions to explore participant experiences. DISCUSSION:When WESW have access to more capital and/or alternative forms of employment and start earning formal income outside of sex work, they may be better able to improve their skills and employability for professional advancement, thereby reducing their STI/HIV risk. The study findings may advance our understanding of how best to implement gender-specific HIV prevention globally, engaging women across the HIV treatment cascade. Further, results will provide evidence for the intervention's efficacy to reduce STIs and inform implementation sustainability, including costs and cost-effectiveness. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ClinicalTrials.gov , ID: NCT03583541 .
Project description:To assess the effect of a savings-led economic empowerment intervention on viral suppression among adolescents living with HIV. Using data from Suubi?+?Adherence, a longitudinal, cluster randomized trial in southern Uganda (2012-2017), we examine the effect of the intervention on HIV RNA viral load, dichotomized between undetectable (<?40 copies/ml) and detectable (??40 copies/ml). Cluster-adjusted comparisons of means and proportions were used to descriptively analyze changes in viral load between study arms while multi-level modelling was used to estimate treatment efficacy after adjusting for fixed and random effects. At 24-months post intervention initiation, the proportion of virally suppressed participants in the intervention cohort increased tenfold (?T2-T0?=?+?10.0, p?=?0.001) relative to the control group (?T2-T0?=?+?1.1, p?=?0.733). In adjusted mixed models, simple main effects tests identified significantly lower odds of intervention adolescents having a detectable viral load at both 12- and 24-months. Interventions addressing economic insecurity have the potential to bolster health outcomes, such as HIV viral suppression, by improving ART adherence among vulnerable adolescents living in low-resource environments. Further research and policy dialogue on the intersections of financial security and HIV treatment are warranted.
Project description:The authors examine whether an innovative family economic empowerment intervention addresses mental health functioning of AIDS-affected children in communities heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS in Uganda.A cluster randomised controlled trial consisting of two study arms, a treatment condition (n=179) and a control condition (n=118), was used to examine the impact of the family economic empowerment intervention on children's levels of hopelessness and depression. The intervention comprised matched children savings accounts, financial management workshops and mentorship. Data were collected at baseline and 12 months post-intervention.Using multivariate analysis with several socioeconomic controls, the authors find that children in the treatment condition (receiving the intervention) report significant improvement in their mental health functioning. Specifically, the intervention reduces hopelessness and depression levels. On the other hand, children in the control condition (not receiving the intervention) report no changes on both measures.The findings indicate that children with poor mental health functioning living in communities affected by HIV/AIDS may benefit from innovative family economic empowerment interventions. As measures of mental health functioning, both hopelessness and depression have long-term negative psychosocial and developmental impacts on children. These findings have implications for public health programmes intended for long-term care and support of children living in resource poor AIDS-impacted communities.
Project description:Savings-led microfinance programs operate in poor rural communities in developing countries to establish groups that save and then lend out the accumulated savings to each other. Nonprofit organizations train villagers to create and lead these groups. In a clustered randomized evaluation spanning three African countries (Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda), we find that the promotion of these community-based microfinance groups leads to an improvement in household business outcomes and women's empowerment. However, we do not find evidence of impacts on average consumption or other livelihoods.